No test kit yet in Samoa, Coronavirus taskforce admits

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) has yet to secure tests for the coronavirus, the Head of the Taskforce leading the country’s response to the international pandemic has revealed. 

Poao Dr. Lamour Hansell revealed the absence of testing kits during an annual Health Sector Forum last Friday. 

In a presentation, he stressed that the best way to detect the virus is by educating health workers on how to identify its symptoms; tests run second best. 

"The second way to pick it up is having that test; we are still working very hard to try and secure rapid kit tests... because if we don’t do the testing, we won’t find anything," he said during his presentation. 

Dr. Hansell said health workers are continuously being educated about C.O.V.I.D.-19’s signs and symptoms.

"We are educating all of our health workforce; that's the number one thing that we're doing right now,” he said. 

“We're educating all to pick up the cases, these are our priorities, as I've mentioned earlier and this is our main focus.

"Every health staff [member] in district hospitals; in the outpatient [facilities] in Savaii; they will be able to recognise and pick it up.”

Dr. Hansell revealed that 15 per cent of the cases that have been reported positive around the world had not travelled to a country that was infected or did not come into contact with a confirmed case, suggesting infected people can still slip move across borders unconventionally. 

Dr. Hansell commended and acknowledged the border control measures Samoa had implemented to prevent the disease reaching the country.

"We are lucky that it hasn’t arrived here yet, but we may have very little time to prepare, we have a very little window there and I feel that it might take one or two more weeks and then we might have to come up with some drastic measures because we will be overwhelmed," he said.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said stocks of coronavirus testing kits are rapidly depleting.

As Australia registers three coronavirus deaths - the only in the Pacific - many Australians are being tested unnecessarily putting pressure on already stretched medical supplies. 

Dr. Hansell also revealed that the elderly and people with pre-existing non-communicable diseases are most at risk among sick people to contract and suffer from C.O.V.I.D.-19.

Those diseases include: hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and lung diseases.

He noted that N.C.Ds are on the rise in Samoa, including among patients aged as young as 13 years old. 

Nearly 40 per cent of Samoan adults had hypertension in 2018; the majority are not receiving the treatment required to prevent the diseases’ further development, a recently published report by the World Bank found. 

But Dr. Hansell said authorities are preparing for the worst case scenario: an at-risk group larger even than the 5000 children infected last year with measles.

"For Samoa, apart from the group that have been identified, we are preparing for the unexpected, we just had a measles outbreak... there could be potentially another risk group," he said.

The Director General of M.O.H., Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, was among the presenters at the forum, and said the Government is doing everything possible to prevent the virus from reaching Samoa. 

Fiji earlier this month unveiled C.O.V.I.D.-19 testing centres at four locations across the country. 

The southeast Asian nation of Myanmar this month received 3000 diagnostic kits in an aid consignment from Singapore. 

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